Forgotten Secrets (Vanishing Ranch #1) - Christy Barritt

PROLOGUE

Jesse Marx stared at the four men surrounding him.

Each of them held a gun that gleamed in the midafternoon sunlight.

And Jesse was unarmed.

He would run . . . except he was on the roof of an eight-story building in Las Vegas.

With nothing but a three-foot wall stopping him from falling to the ground below.

He knew his odds in this situation.

They weren’t good.

“Listen, guys, we can talk this out.” He decided to rely on his intellect rather than his physical prowess right now.

He was too outnumbered to win this battle otherwise.

One of the men—Lukas—stepped closer. “Who are you working for?”

The scar across the man’s cheek hinted of the fights he’d been in—the fights where he’d come out as conqueror. His dark hair was cut short, and tattoos claimed nearly every visible surface of his arms and neck.

“No one. I’m not working for anyone.” Jesse tried to stop the sweat from covering his forehead, a nearly impossible task.

Lukas let out a grunt that clearly showed he didn’t believe Jesse. “You better start talking. You won’t like the other options if you don’t.”

Jesse glanced behind him, and his head swam a moment as he viewed the vast drop below.

There was a really good chance this wasn’t going to end well.

“I would tell you if I knew anything.” Jesse kept his voice light. “But I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve got the wrong guy.”

Lukas stepped closer, waving his gun in Jesse’s face. “Do you think we’re stupid?”

“No, I don’t think you’re stupid. I just think you’re mistaken.” Jesse did think they were a little stupid. But he’d never say that—not if he wanted to live.

“This is your last chance to answer our questions.” Lukas and his comrades stepped closer, backing Jesse up until he hit the wall.

Even with all his FBI training, this would be a very tricky situation.

“Who do you work for?” Lukas demanded again. “Last chance.”

Jesse knew there was no use telling this guy again that he didn’t work for anyone.

Instead, he did the next best thing.

He grabbed Lukas’ arm and twisted it until the gun fell out of his grasp. The man let out a whimper. With his other hand, Jesse swung his fist until it connected with the guy’s jaw.

Lukas reeled back.

As he did, Jesse dove for the man’s gun. He’d need it to fight off these other thugs.

But it was too late.

One of the other men bull-rushed him, giving Lukas time to recover. The man grabbed Jesse’s shirt and held him over the edge.

Jesse glanced down at the nothingness beneath him.

At once, his life flashed before his eyes.

He couldn’t fail.

Not just in this situation. But with this whole assignment.

He’d come too far. Sacrificed too much.

He glanced back at Lukas. “Can’t we talk this through?”

“We’re beyond talking.” Lukas glared at him before letting go.

Jesse flailed as he felt nothing but air beneath him.

CHAPTER

ONE

Jesse Marx felt his world spinning.

He was in danger.

He had to do something.

Had to stop this.

But it was already too late . . .

As something tickled his face, he abruptly jerked from a deep sleep.

He rushed to his feet, his hands fisted and ready to fight. He ignored the pain in his side and the pounding in his head as adrenaline surged through him.

A hideous monster stared at him from above.

Jesse blinked.

No, not a hideous monster.

A horse.

A very curious horse.

He took a step back and hit the rough wooden wall behind him. As a wave of dizziness washed over him, he collapsed into some hay.

The scent of manure and sweaty horses floated around him, and flies buzzed in his ears.

Was he in a stable?

How in the world had he gotten here?

He touched his temple and tried to recall his last memories.

But it was almost as if a blank spot existed in his mind.

The last thing Jesse remembered was being confronted by the cartel on a rooftop.

Being held over a wall.

And beginning the fall to his death.

After that, there was . . . nothing.

He should be dead right now.

Was he losing his mind?

His heart raced harder.

As an FBI agent who’d done one too many undercover assignments, Jesse couldn’t risk letting his guard down. That’s why none of this made sense.

Based on the dry air around him and the sandy ground, he guessed he was in a desert climate.

Mexico maybe? Had the Campeche Cartel taken him somewhere?

The cartel was one of the most dangerous in the United States and Mexico. Jesse had been undercover with them for the past year. He’d been feeding info to his FBI handler in